Promoting bhangra in Italy for 12 years

Ajay Joshi

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 21

With an intention to change the perspective of people around the globe towards the Punjabi community, Italy-based NRI Varinder Deep Singh, alias Ravi (37), has been promoting Punjabi folk dance in Italy for around 12 years now.

Sharing an incident that he encountered in Italy during his initial days, he said back in 2008, when he had just shifted to Italy, he observed that Italians had an impression about Punjabis that they only drink, abuse and fight and more such incidents only made the things worse for the Punjabi community residing there. “It pinched me a lot and I wanted to turn the tables for the Punjabis,” he said.

Subsequently, after settling down there, he formed a group of seven Punjabi youths who started engaging local residents with exciting beats of ‘bhangra’.

Since then there was no looking back for Ravi, who is a resident of Kala Bakra village in Jalandhar. He not only promoted the dance among Italians but also motivated them to do it as a full-body exercise.

He said owing to live stream of bhangra performances, its popularity has soared manifold over the past decade in Italy. The pool of dancers (mostly Italians) showcase bhangra at several occasions and surprisingly he has more number of Italian bhangra dancers than Punjabis. He has over 200 Italian boys and girls who are learning the folk dance from him.

While speaking about his journey, Ravi, who was here for his marriage, said it’s been an incredible, whirlwind journey for him. Now, people in Italy treat them with respect and even invite them for teaching their kids bhangra. A part of the impressive fabric of a wonderful culture, bhangra helped him connect with people and he is at present organising over 100 live shows there in which the major chunk of the audience includes Italians.

Interestingly, his Italian students have also turned their passion for bhangra into their profession and are now spreading it among residents in other cities there.

Back in college, Ravi used to perform the dance form during youth festivals and represented DAV College for around five years. He also brought the Bhangra revolution here by organising free bhangra sikhlayi camps (free bhangra training camps) that also drew a great response from youngsters in the city. The tradition was still being carry forwarded by his students here, he claimed.

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